Vietnamese mobile start-up 'Shark Journey' snaps up $40,000 from Facebook

By Vien Thong   September 14, 2016 | 01:10 am PT
The Flappy Bird phenomenon has launched a new wave of start-ups and entrepreneurs in Vietnam.

A Ho Chi Minh City-based website developer has managed to secure $40,000 from tech giant Facebook.

Nguyen Thanh Tu made a life-changing decision in 2011 by quitting his job as a web developer with a stable income to become an indie mobile game creator.

With a wife and child, he suddenly found himself out of a job. There is no question that this was one of the boldest decisions that Tu has ever made.

During the first year, Tu became a stay-at-home dad who tried to squeeze in a few hours a day between feeding his daughter and doing the housework or during his child's naps to self-learn how to create mobile games.


Tu became a stay-at-home dad who tried to squeeze in a few hours a day between feeding his daughter and doing the housework to self-learn how to create mobile games.

All the hard work seems to have paid off now his first brainchild, a mobile game called Shark Journey, has drawn more than 10,000 players on the iOS App Store and nearly 5,000 downloads on digital platform Google Play.

Shark Journey is about a tiny shark in a deep blue ocean who has lost his shoal. Players use a joystick in the right-hand corner to help Little Shark find his way back home. During the journey, the shark has to eat small fish to grow and flee from bigger ones.

“When I was developing this game, nobody had my back, not even my wife. We used to quarrel about my career choice. She insisted that I was trained to be a professional web developer, not a mobile game developer. She even made me go through the day without eating so that I could think through about all the new start-up ideas,” Tu recalled.

While Tu was trying to get his fledging mobile start-up off the ground, he took a part-time job installing doors and windows to earn some extra cash to advertise the game.

Tu said last month he made an estimated $5,000, which is more than enough to support his family.

There are a growing number of mobile start-up innovators like Nguyen Thanh Tu who want to repeat the success of Flappy Bird.

Mobile game Flappy Bird, an overnight success, was released on the iOS App Store in May 2013 with a quiet start to life and little attention. Nguyen Ha Dong didn’t bother promoting it. Instead of charging for Flappy Bird, he made it free, and hoped to get some money from in-game advertising. Downloads of the game went through the roof in early 2014 with more than 50 million players before it was removed from app stores. At the game's peak, Dong was making about $50,000 a day in advertising - the amount a typical Vietnamese white-collar worker can only earn in about five years.

Tu said he would make use of the support from Facebook to continue making amusement games for smartphones and tablets.

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